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Monday, 07 October 2013


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C'mon, the thing costs more than FF DSLR.

Combining a "peerless panoply of lenses" with "a huge junk-drawer of features" means that there is likely something for everyone except the guy who wrote that " ... the next trend in cameras is going to be simplicity."

Must be brand identification, why else would you care about the quarterly earnings of the company that makes your camera. Interweb advice is always to choose a brand with long-term stability so you can grow your system in the future. This seems sensible at first, but sometimes it seems as if the interweb is nothing but a long monologue about switchers, Canon to Nikon, Nikon to Sony, etc. I don't know if this is all noise, but if it isn't, then who cares about long-term?

Worrying about Nikon's quarterly results or Olympus's is viral marketing. It's a way to keep that brand in your head. It keeps you thinking about them. The only people to whom this could possibly matter are professionals, and how many of those are there? And anyway, the pros probably own all the brands to begin with.

And even if the maker of your camera goes belly-up and disappears tomorrow, so what? Your equipment will keep working, and when it breaks, it will be simple enough, and cheap enough, to simply buy something else.

I'd be more worried about photo software makers going belly-up or merging or forcing you to subscribe. When those choices are gone, finding a way around it won't be easy.

If they only made it in full frame, ergonomically it looks exactly how I would want it to look (and likely feel)

I got one of a handful of E-M1s that Olympus shipped early. I think it's an impressive camera. I'm as skeptical as you are, but this is the real thing, as I stated on my own blog.

"...huge junk-drawer of features..."
Mike, you'd think they would at least invite you to press junkets involving piers and long walks.

The first user experiences are trickling in at DPR from the few folks who likely ordered from dealers instead of going online. This is the best write-up I've seen, coming from an E5 user's perspective: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/52282714

My issue with 4/3s cameras is they're not small enough. To me cameras come in two sizes - whatever I can fit in my jeans pocket (I often don't wear a jacket, so something that fits in a jacket pocket does me no good), and "everything else". Whatever "everything else" is will wind up in a backpack, so I don't care how big it gets as long as I can hike with it. If that's the case I want all the resolution I can get (I like to print big highly detailed prints), so I might as well use something with more umph then a 4/3s camera (which is a shame, as I love the aspect ratio).

Tough, tough decisions. Should It replace my E-5? It seems to be what Olympus wants me to do and I hate being dictated. On the other hand upgrading will supposedly boost the performance of all those lovely 4/3 lenses overnight, not to mention all those sweet little primes that I have been secretly coveting. Even the EVF looks adequate for a change. But then it's bloody expensive with grip and adapter. I can afford it, but I'm not particularly eager to buy one. I need more time.

I am a believer in and try to be an advocate of Oocham's Razor to wit: "The simple answer is usually the solution." Unfortunately, camera manufacturers seem to be more of "The more features, the more customers" ilk.

Mike said,

". . . peerless panoply of lens choices . . ."

Jeez, Mike, you angling for a headline-writing post at Variety?

%^) ) )


Having used an E-M5 for over a year, with a modest selection of lenses (kit 12-50, Panasonic 100-300, Samyang 7.5 FE, Oly 45, Panasonic 20 & 14) my D700 with its set of 3 huge, heavy, expensive 2.8 zooms (and numerous others), now stays mostly at home. DSLRs are surely going the way of the dinosaurs.

The firmware is admittedly abominable. The buttons are too small and difficult to locate whilst shooting. I am utterly sick of finding myself in unwanted modes at the most inconvenient times and having to stab away semi-randomly at the Inf Fn(s) and OK buttons to reset my chosen mode. Just awful, awful.

That said the E-M1 doesn't seem to have sufficient improvement on the IQ front to induce me to upgrade - I'll skip this time. If money were no object I'd buy one. And of course the new 2.8 zooms released to match the camera are almost as expensive (and bulky) as Nikon DX and FX equivalents.

For me, whatever the current limitations, M4/3 format is just about perfect, particularly if one's using the excellent, tiny, primes.


"This whole deal with hobbyists being preoccupied with the business concerns of suppliers is a recent phenomenon"

In the days of film, almost any high quality camera could be repaired by a lot of competent repair shops. Now if the manufacturer goes under your fancy camera is subject to sudden unrepairable death syndrome. Plus, in the days of film it was really easy to get into the camera making business or just build your own. Vendor viability in now a big concern.

If you really want to get an earful of hobbyists preoccupied with the business concerns of the people who make their toys, get a few Porsche or other sportscar* owners, or private pilots in a room together.

*Or Pontiac, Saab, Oldsmobile, or Studebaker drivers.

"...C'mon, the thing costs more than FF DSLR..."

The retail price at B&H of the E-M1 body ($1,399) is 100 dollars cheaper than the Canon 7D body ($1,499) with an APS-C sensor.

The cheapest price for a full frame body camera at the same store is
$1,899 for the Canon 6D.

That's a difference of $500

I don't find this camera ugly at all! Aesthetically, and given its 'reflex-esque' shape, it has to be measured against DSLRs - and it wins big time. It has firm, solid lines, as opposed to the molten looks of all DSLRs bar the Pentax K-5.
An issue with Micro 4/3 is that there are too many negative views on sensor area, with all those dull debates on "equivalent aperture" and lack of 'bokeh' that plague photography forums. (As for the latter, I stand along Ctein when he claims aperture is the least important factor regarding depth of field, distance from subject being much more important.) Anyway, all this negativeness could be hampering Micro 4/3 sales in the western world. Or maybe it's Olympus' own PR policy, which is non existent in some western countries.
This camera could be the ideal replacement for my aging E-P1. However, one must admit it is very expensive. Its price tag puts it above semi-professional cameras like the Nikon D7100 and the Canon 70D. And, however good the E-M1's image quality may be, JPEG quality is not a sales point in a segment where everybody shoots Raw. Olympus will have a hard time convincing photographers that this camera is worth its premium price. Of course there are wonderful lenses in Micro 4/3 line-up, and that can persuade those who bought some of them, but will that be enough?
A final consideration is that this camera officially buried 4/3 DSLRs. I don't know whether people with a collection of 4/3 lenses are willing to substitute a small(-ish) camera for their full-sized E-5 and E-30, with the added inconvenience of having to use an adapter. Not to mention that they'll be losing the optical viewfinder, which most serious photographers can't do without.
It's hard to know what to make of this camera. The size and portability that Micro 4/3 championned has vanished, and it might not be good enough for professional users.
Olympus does need a new Maitani.

It feels great, more 'conventionally' layed out (no cramped fiddly button arrangement), well balanced, best EVF yet, super stabilisation, impressive AF and continuing with the very sweet sensor. I think that it is nicer looking than the images of it make it appear: probably the digital camera I really, really would like to have. (I would like the EM-5, but not 'really, really').
We have one in store for demonstration, pre-orders expected any day now.
Regards, Mark Walker.

Being exactly $2,000 cheaper than a Canon 5D mk 111 certainly got the attention of this owner of an aging MK11 outfit....One who finds himself often shooting a Canon G1X or a Panasonic LX7 due to their quietness,general unobtrusiveness and portability.

I don't think it's ugly, but I'm concerned about the "junk-drawer of features" and Olympus's reputation for excessive complexity.

Shoving a junk drawer full of features into hardware that looks pleasing (to me if not to you) is just not good design. What's the point of being the best if that superiority is too daunting to unlock for all but the most stubborn and determined among us, and/or those who went to engineering school?

I'm not asking for a camera that lets me perform photographic miracles without having a basic understanding of light, optics, geometry and composition. Just one that doesn't add a bunch of other layers of required knowledge specific to that particular camera. IMHO cameras that do that are badly designed, no matter what they look like or feel like in your hand.

I thought the Rumors site said this wasn't the fully professional model, which was going to be along next year or something. An M7?

With 'peerless panoply of lenses" and "huge junk drawer of features'
You've delivered a thoughtful and thought provoking camera review in under 10 words.
Surely that qualifies you as the Hemingway of Photographic Writing.

It'd also the reason many of us tune in each day so as not to miss a single morsel from the Wizard of Waukesha

There's something about m43 that I'm not getting....

Olympus has always marketed their cameras saying "the smaller sensor is the trade off you have to deal with if you like the tiny-ultra portable bodies".

But now they've launched a smaller sensor camera with a body that's roughly the size of a Nikon D80.

That said, I can't help to drool over the web anytime I see an E-M5.

The Olympus OM-4Ti (discontinued in 2002) was 8.6 mm wider, 6.5 mm shorter, and 13 mm shallower than this camera, yet it had a large pentaprism viewfinder and a 24 x 36 mm imaging area (3.84 times the area of the OM-D EM-1).

The EM-1 looks like a great camera, considering its size, the weather sealing, the image stabilization, and its durable build but... why such a dinky little sensor?

It's a camera that's essentially the same size as its 35mm film predecessor, but with a sensor the size of 110 film. I don't get it. I must be missing something.

[Hi Befuddled (I know it's you Dave), Just compare the size of five or six angle-of-view-equivalent FF lenses with lenses for Micro 4/3 and I think you'll see what you're missing. --Mike]

I heard similar good things about the OMD EM5, and frankly I am not impressed. The autofocus is not much better than my GF1, and it required a lot of disabling of features and tape (and zip ties) to make it useable for me. I want my Nikon D700 in a µ43 package. I want controls that don't set themselves in my pocket, bag or holster. I want a viewfinder eyepiece that doesn't fall off, and an EVF that is useful when the eyepiece does fall off. I do not see that the E-M1 has addressed this for me.

Cheers Mike,

The E-M1, at least at release, has a pretty specific audience: four-thirds owners who need a modern sensor for their lens collections.

[raises hand]

The E-M5 got me into the µ4/3 fold (as the first system body that hit my entre requirements list) but its performance with 4/3 lenses leaves a lot to be desired. To be fair, it does most other things either well or REALLY well, but at present there are not enough native µ4/3 lenses to keep us happy.

With that said, once the next round of high-grade µ4/3 lenses from Panny and Oly are released, pros and advanced amateurs will have a compelling reason to give the E-M1 a serious look. Let's say by Q2/14. If the E-M5 production capacity glitches are predictive for the E-M1, they should have enough for everybody by then.

While I like the looks of the E-M1 along with the great evf, the too small battery is a deal killer. I'm a working pro and made the full switch from Canon full frame to m4/3 in May. I picked up a couple GH3's after shooting with GH2's on and off for 2 years.

I find the light weight and range of great glass to have made my back a lot happier, and my shooting life a whole lot more fun, and I don't miss the few mega pixels that I lost in the transition at all.

Admittedly, I'm a heavy shooter, literally and figuratively I'm afraid, and having to switch out batteries every 400 - 600 frames would make me as crazy as it did with my GH2 cameras. I regularly get 3x as much from the GH3 batteries.

It would just be more to carry, more to fumble with, and more stuff to loose on assignment. And then, you'd need a lot of chargers to get them back up to speed before the next big thing to shoot. Supposedly this is a pro camera, but not with those batteries. Hopefully they can find a way to jam a few more electrons into a same size battery with higher capacity.

[Hi Mike, That's typical for cameras with dedicated removable battery grips, which the E-M1 will have (the HLD-7). Use the in-camera battery for light duty; use the battery grip for heavy use. --Mike]

"... It's Ugly But It's The Best ..."
"...huge junk-drawer of features..."

Well, Mike, that's not really the way to make friends amongst the Olympus folks, is it? :-)

I ordered one shortly after they were announced. I obtained the manual from Olympus and started reading it. Shortly afterwards, I had the pleasure to try one with my lenses and my storage card when the Olympus rep was at the local camera shop.

It is like all the other Olympus pro-grade cameras (E-1, E-3, E-5): it has a lot of features and an incredible amount of customization options. It is also like the other Olympus pro-grade cameras in that it is a pleasure to hold and use.

I will treat it much as I treated the E-5, which is far more complex and sophisticated than my E-1. I'll set it up for the way I will use it, and then I'll forget all the other stuff until I want or need it. With all the customization options available, I can make it behave very simply, just like I did with the E-5.

Having read the manual, and having owned the E-5 before it, when I picked it up to try it out at the counter there were no surprises, everything in the menu system was logical and easy to find, and I configured the camera for my tests in just a couple of moments.

What is stunning about the E-M1 is the superb quality of the viewfinder, the excellent ergonomics of the controls, and the fact that it supports using my FourThirds SLR lenses as well as if not better than the SLRs did. And it supports adapting my lovely Leica R lenses better than SLRs do. And it is slim like a film camera, with a beautifully sculpted grip and controls placed just right, particularly with the HLD7 battery grip fitted.

It is the best, and it is also a very attractive camera: everything on it has a functional purpose. Beauty is as beauty does in the world of camera equipment...

I'm so looking forward to receiving mine. :-)

Currently I've got an E-M5 and Canon 5D Mark III (with various lenses for both). For all sorts of reasons I need a two body outfit of the same type, and am dithering between the E-M1 and the Canon 70D.

So I tried out the E-M1 this weekend - and was both impressed and disappointed. The viewfinder is very good indeed for an EVF, but somehow, with all the hype, I expected more. It is still a fair bit behind a good optical view finder.

The other key feature for me is the continuous focus - to be sure, the E-M1 is a BIG improvement over the E-M5, but it still feels a fair bit behind a decent DSLR.

I really like the OM-D series, and am in danger of convincing myself it's good enough for my needs, but my head is telling me "not quite".

The other problem for me is the lack of any decent m4/3 prime telephotos. I want at least an f4 300. For me the "crop factor" doesn't cut it - the look of a telephoto lens is more than just the angle of view. At the moment the only option is the old 4/3 Oly 300 f2.8, but that is just a bit too much for me.

I wouldn't have thought a decent 300 f4 is too much to expect, and it could make the OM-D very attractive to many specialist photographers (sport, wildlife etc.)

I just got the GX7 and have been working with it over the last couple of days. It's smaller than the M-1, and with the Lumix 12-35 constant f2.8 (24-70 equiv) it's the best street camera-lens combo I've ever owned, and I've owned both film and digital Leicas. My biggest criticism involves handling -- because it's so compact, the GX7 needs a firm clear space to put your right thumb, and it doesn't have it; I always seem to stumbling over a button. With the touch-screen on the back, I think what it really needs is a mechanical button that will call up digital buttons on the touch screen, to replace physical buttons on the body (not all of them, but the ones you use less frequently, like the programmable buttons.) You do need some space for your fingers. Looking at the M1, I suspect it will have the same problem -- it seems more encrusted with buttons than even the GX7. As for lenses, the 12-35 is a gem as well.

I pretty sure at this point that I will resolve the handling problem simply by handling it more; but I think miniaturization in cameras may be reaching its limits.

Hi Mike it's not ugly - I think it is gorgeous!! Put the 75 mm on and FLY! Face detection is breathtaking and I want to try it with my mate's 150 mm f2 Zuiko

Best lenses bar none? A fearless hyperbole, I presume.

[AMONG the best lenses (I said "some of," same difference) FOR PHOTOGRAPHY bar none, and no hyperbole at all. I didn't say you have to agree. --Mike]

Oh, I'm sorry. The combination of "some" with "bar none" was so confusing that I erroneously read something that would be far less confusing, and looked like a hyperbole. Nothing wrong with hyperboles in photography blogging, btw.

Hi Mike,

I was lucky enough to shoot with the E-M1 and the 12 - 40mm f2.8 for a week and finally wrote an extensive review.

I may have overdone it at nearly 8,000 words but hopefully, you will find it interesting.



I can see the mirrorless AF progressing, and rather expect it to catch up with DSLR levels in a generation or two; but none of the reviews even of the E-M1 have managed to make it sound like it's anywhere near up to handling sports shooting yet. And the Dx0Mark and DPReview noise tests show it's nowhere near up to my D700 there, either.

So despite my hankering to use some of my M43 lenses more seriously, and to get some more of the really good ones, it's nowhere close to the point of replacing my D700 yet.

"[Hi Befuddled (I know it's you Dave), Just compare the size of five or six angle-of-view-equivalent FF lenses with lenses for Micro 4/3 and I think you'll see what you're missing. --Mike]"

Yeah, it's me, but I don't comment on gear. Remember? ;-)

Yes, my FF lenses are enormous, and my back doesn't really like them at all. But, in comparing the EM-1 to the OM-4Ti, I'm also talking about the size of lenses. Realistically, I could do without AF for 95% of the work that I do. I've got a bag full of AI and pre-AI Nikon manual focus lenses that are the same size or smaller than MFT autofocus lenses, and I'd bet that all the old Zuikos are even a tad smaller than that.

If the EVF in the EM-1 is as good as it's purported to be, that fact, combined with focus peaking might make eye level manual focusing practical (unlike my D800 that lacks a split prism or microprism focusing screen option). New or vintage manual focus Zuikos on a full frame EM-1 with a 24-36 MP sensor might convince me to trade in my Dragoon...

Until that happens though, I'll keep lugging around the big gun and the big glass. A small camera would be great, but not when it also means a dinky little 110 sensor inside. I like sensors with inherently high dynamic range, shadows with plenty of detail that can be pulled up when needed, terrific low light sensitivity, low noise at high ISOs, and the possibility of shallow depth of field and the bokeh that comes with it. I also like lenses that don't need automatic digital correction because of design compromises that come by trying to achieve small size while also including AF.

Give me a digital OM-4, or an FM for that matter. I don't want something that just looks like an OM.

(And BTW, I think the EM-1 is a pretty good looking camera. Based on the build and the specs, $2400 for a weather-sealed body and 24-80/2.8 equivalent lens isn't bad at all.)

I yield the floor.

I have no doubt the EM-1 is a fine camera and will sell well to the masses.
I shoot with all the SHG lenses except the 300mm, and this disclaimer from Olympus on the MMF-3 product, is one of the main reasons I will not be headed down the EM-1 upgrade path that so many others seem to be eager to take...

"* When using an SHG lens, please make sure to hold the lens as well, or drip-proof/optical performances might not work.

* Please use a tripod mount on the lens when using a tripod to hold a camera with the lens that has a tripod mount.

* When using the MMF-3, some functions may be restricted."

While these statements make complete sense, to have to handle a camera so gingerly does not spell "Pro" performance to me, especially if one wants to use the very outstanding EC14 and 20 tele converters that Olympus is so proud of. I desired a body that will 'properly' support those SHGs. The Adapter -Extender combo is an accident waiting to happen IMHO! I will continue to shoot with my E-3s and 5s and bide my time.
Despite the many "rave reviews" from the gear heads and hawkers, this is not the upgrade path many 4/3 users were hoping for. It is at best a compromised solution to try and appease the people already heavily invested in SHG glass, or get the gearheads to purchase yet another body.

I have the 35-80 f/2.8 and it's a wonderful piece of gear. Great for walking around photography and general landscape. Knowledgeable users write it rivals many Leica lenses.

Mike, do you mean the 14-35mm f/2? That's a nice lens as well if you can get over the size. On my E-3 it still looks like a coffee can on a point and shoot!

The E-M5 has a retro coolness which the E-M1 lacks because the grip makes E-M1 look like a miniature of every dslr (and slr) of the last 20 years. Also, who does the model naming at Olympus? From E-M5 to E-M1, but both stay in the line-up?

I also look forward to the arrival of the E-M1, what appears to be a worthy addition to the OM-D line. I have an E-M5 which I like *very much*, it's a little dynamo, and a *killer* camera, and as you point out, has a great selection of lenses avaialble for it from both Olympus and Panasonic (the Panny 12-35 and 35-100 f2.8 constant aperture zooms, in particular, are superb, IMHO).

For me personally, the best compact system camera out there is the wonderful new Fuji X-series of APS-C cameras. I own both, and while the OM-D image quality is excellent, the Fuji X-trans cameras are truly extraordinary when it comes to image quality (the OM-D's don't have the dynamic range, noise performance, DOF capabilities or those magical Fuji colors of the X-cams). And the Fuji lenses are very impressive, as good or in some cases, better than anything I've ever used. The Fuji 18-55 is one of the best "standard" zooms on the market at any price, and the 14mm/2.8 prime is one of the best lenses I've ever used, period.

Regardless, the Oly M4/3 is a terrific system, one that looks like it's about to get a lot better, and like you, I look forward to a system that will allow use of those amazing 4/3 high-grade lenses. Those might just be incentive enough alone to get an E-M1. Personally, I think having both systems provides a photographer with a superb set of photographic tools, each suited to a specific set needs and requirements.

As far as the other compact system cameras, I'd take an E-M5 or E-M5 over any of the Sonys any day of the week.

I really like the micro 4/3 stuff. I now have 2 Olympus bodies (the original OMD 7 an E-PL5) and 4 lenses. Plus manual Leica-mount lenses with adaptors.

Once you've delved through the menus & tweaked to your liking, these are set-and-forget cameras. Very nice results. And this weekend, a 2-body, 5-lens kit was smaller & lighter to carry than my previous 1-body, 2-lens DSLR stuff. (Not that I'll normally want 2 bodies & 5 lenses at once, I was experimenting.)

For travel, i think this will be good - I just wish for longer battery life. An up-coming 18 day trip in the mountains will need a lot of batteries!

Not in the good old EU.

"The retail price at B&H of the E-M1 body ($1,399) is 100 dollars cheaper than the Canon 7D body ($1,499) with an APS-C sensor.

The cheapest price for a full frame body camera at the same store is
$1,899 for the Canon 6D.

That's a difference of $500"

"Also, who does the model naming at Olympus? From E-M5 to E-M1, but both stay in the line-up?"

I see it as analogous to 1D and 5D. Don't know which came first in that case, but here the 5 came first and the 1 simply slots in above it. Doesn't matter that it came later.

So it seems that the bottom line is that the C-AF is still a good notch below a good dslr, not suitable for sports photography. I feel sad for the 5% of professionals (as in "paid for their work") that shoot sports (as in a 2012 US survey, I don`t think EU or Asia is much different). The other 95% will be more than happy to find the new Olympus camera promising for their line of work.

"The OM-D's don't have the dynamic range, noise performance, DOF capabilities or those magical Fuji colors of the X-cams."

Sorry, but for the exactly opposite opinions I've read in various comparison threads, this seems an HIGHLY subjective point of view. IF you like Fuji colors, DoF etc. fine. Others don't.

I'm always amused at the "Pro" designation being applied to cameras. So many will think they have to have weather sealing, high burst rates, etc...But most will end up selling this camera in six months when the next "new" thing is announced. They will have barely fired the shutter a thousand times.

The marketing folks are really good at their jobs.

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